America's 'most evil' mother Shelly Knotek is released from prison
‘There is evil among us’: Outrage as America’s ‘most evil’ mother Shelly Knotek is released from prison after serving out her sentence for killing two people – and covering up the death of her 17-year-old nephew
- Michelle ‘Shelly’ Knotek, 68, of Raymond, Washington, was released from prison in November 2022, nearly two decades after killing at least two people
- The mother of three was convicted in 2004 of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth
- Author Gregg Olsen wrote a book detailing the crimes: ‘If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood’
America’s ‘most evil mother’ Michelle ‘Crazy Shelly’ Knotek is out of prison nearly two decades after she murdered at least two people, and tortured others – including her own daughters and nephew.
Shelly, 68, was convicted in 2004 of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the deaths of Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth, who were boarders in the family’s home in Raymond, Washington.
Her husband, David ‘Dave’ Knotek, was convicted of murdering her 17-year-old nephew Shane Watson, who the couple tortured while he was living with them.
Dave was released on parole in 2016 and in June 2022, he filed a protective order against Knotek, the month she was scheduled to be released. She was released on November 8 – which caused outrage among the residents in the rural community.
It’s unclear where Shelly has been released to, but she will remain under court-ordered supervision for at least a year.
Michelle ‘Shelly’ Knotek, 68, was released from prison on November 8, nearly two decades after she murdered at least two people, tortured others – including her daughters and nephew
Her husband David Knotek was convicted of murdering her nephew Shane Watson in 1994. He was released in 2016 and in 2022, he filed a protective order against Knotek
In 2003, workers removed concrete from the property of the home of David and Michelle Knotek as they searched for evidence after finding the remains of one body
The Knoteks’ horrific crimes have attracted national media attention over the decades due to allegations of abuse and torture that date back years within their own family.
From the outside, the Knoteks looked like a normal, happy family.
Dave was a Navy veteran who worked in construction to provide for his growing family. He married Michelle ‘Shelly’ in 1987 who already had two daughters, Nikki, and Sami.
The couple then had a daughter Tori together in 1989. The girls were always dressed in their best and well-mannered.
The family even opened their home to family, friends and locals who had nowhere else to go.
They took in her 17-year-old nephew Shane in 1988 after his parents were unable to care for him.
Later that same year, Shelly’s friend and hairdresser Kathy Loreno moved in after she lost her job.
When military veteran Ronald Woodworth lost his home in 1999, he was also given shelter at the Knoteks’ home.
But then, the houseguests began to vanish one by one.
When family members of asked, Shelly always had a reason for their disappearance. One had simply run off with a man. Another had moved to another town for a job.
For years, the houseguests’ whereabouts remained a mystery. Until 2003, when the Knoteks’ three daughters found the courage to go to the authorities. A search of the property led to the discovery of a man’s body and revealed years of horror the family had kept hidden.
Shelly, then 50, was convicted of torturing and killing her victims in the early 90s, but her reign of terror began years before that – with her own family.
As she would do with her victims, the mother would shower her children with love and affection, then turn on a dime and beat and degrade them as punishment.
In 2017, Knotek’s three daughters went to author Gregg Olsen to tell their story for one reason: to stop their mother from killing again
Details of the horrific abuse her daughters endured were laid out in the book – ‘If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood’ by author Gregg Olsen, which was published years later.
The daughters approached Olsen to tell their story for one reason – to stop their mother from killing again.
In November, Shelly was granted early release and her 22-year sentence ended after 18 years. She had initially been charged with first degree murder, but took a plea deal that resulted in lesser charges via the Alford Plea. Under the terms of an Alford Plea, a person can plead guilty but maintain their innocence.
Shelly’s daughters told the New York Post in 2019 that they feared for the safety of others if their mother was released.
Shelly was scheduled to be released from the Washington Corrections Center for Women in June 2022, but it was pushed to November.
When book author Olsen posted to social media about her release on November 9, residents of the rural community were stunned.
‘Evil is out and amongst us,’ one person said on the post, while another stated, ‘how is this possible?’
It’s not clear where Shelly ended up after she was released from prison, but many people posted to social media they believed she should have stayed locked up forever. A former neighbor pointed out that she was in poor health, adding that it’s unlikely she could resume her killing spree.
It’s not clear where Knotek ended up after she was released, but a former neighbor pointed out she was in poor health and that it’s unlikely she could resume her killing spree
Dave was a Navy veteran who worked in construction to provide for his growing family. He married Michelle ‘Shelly’ in 1987 who already had two daughters, Nikki, and Sami
Pictured are Shelly’s three daughters. She had her third daughter Tori with Dave in 1989. The girls were always dressed in their best, well-mannered and seemingly happy
The family often opened their home to family, friends and locals who had nowhere else to go
In Olsen’s book published in 2019, Shelly’s daughters opened up about how they were emotionally and physically abused by their mother.
If they used the bathroom without permission, they could be subjected to a severe beating.
However, Shelly’s favorite punishment was known as ‘wallowing,’ which involved the mother forcing her children to strip naked in the middle of the night and roll in mud while she hosed them down with cold water, according to the book.
One part of the book recalls a time that Shelly shoved Nikki’s head through a glass door and said ‘look what you made me do,’ as blood dripped from the child’s face.
When Shelly’s nephew Shane came to live with the family in 1988, she forced Nikki, who was only 13 at the time, to slow dance with him in the living room while nude.
‘It worked like any abusive relationship,’ Nikki recalls in the book, ‘and then the abuser reins them back in with kindness.
‘My mother was like a ticking time bomb. I never knew when she would go off.’
Finally, it did.
And it began with Shelly’s friend Kathy Loreno, who was tortured to death after she moved in with the family in 1988.
The daughters witnessed some of the abuse, but said in the book that while they regret not intervening, there was little they could do.
‘[If] Mom was punishing Kathy, she was ignoring us,’ Nikki adding, pointing out that it took the heat of them. ‘As sick as that was… we were glad Mom wasn’t doing it to us.’
After Loreno’s murder in 1994, Shelly warned her family that ‘all of us will be in jail if anyone finds out what happened to Kathy.’
They family kept their mouths shut and moved on with their lives. But the torture and murder at the house in the rural town continued.
Two more people were murdered during Shelly’s spree: Her nephew, Shane Watson, 19, and a 57-year-old local man, Ronald Woodworth.
‘They were innocent people who got caught in Shelly’s evil web,’ Olsen told The Post.
Kathy Loreno, 36, killed in July 1994
Knotek’s friend Kathy Loreno was tortured to death after she moved in with the family in 1988
Knotek warned her family ‘all of us will be in jail if anyone finds out what happened to Kathy’
Kathy Loreno, was a hairdresser when she met Shelly and the two became good friends
Kathy Loreno, was a hairdresser in South Bend, Washington, when she met Shelly and the two became good friends.
In 1988, when Loreno had a falling out with her own family, she moved in with the Knoteks, in exchange for helping them with their daughters.
They took her in as their own and Shelly essentially ‘love-bombed’ Loreno before the abuse began. She accused her friend of binge-eating and sleepwalking so she took all her clothes, withheld food and forced her to sleep in the boiler room.
The extreme abuse continued when she drugged her with tranquilizers and forced her to work naked, degrading her.
‘Kathy was a pleaser and never did anything to trigger such treatment,’ Olsen previously told The Post. ‘Shelly delighted in making other people hurt. It made her feel superior. She has never been formally diagnosed as a psychopath, but showed all the traits.’
Loreno was held at the house for five years, with some believing she was too scared to escape and then at some point, was unable to.
Shelly and her husband tortured Loreno using makeshift waterboarding equipment. They’d also duct tape her arms and legs together as they poured bleach into open sores on her body.
Kathy died in July 1994 while she was imprisoned in the laundry room.
Meanwhile, her family had reported her missing and the Knoteks were interviewed by police. They claimed Loreno had run away with a truck driver and moved to California.
Dave claimed that Loreno died by asphyxiating on her own vomit, but he did not take her to a hospital or report her death to police because of the physical injuries to Loreno’s body.
Instead, they burned her body in the backyard and disposed of the ashes in the Pacific Ocean. None of her remains were ever found.
Shane Watson, 19, killed in 1994
Shane Watson, moved in with the Knoteks around 1988, but disappeared in 1994, after Loreno
Shane Watson, moved in with the Knoteks around 1988, but disappeared in 1994, shortly after Loreno.
He had moved in with the family while his father – Shelly’s brother – was in jail.
The Knoteks had claimed that Watson had run away to Alaska to work on a fishing vessel.
David Knotek later claimed that he had shot Watson with a .22 caliber rifle.
It was alleged that he was killed because Shelly believed he had taken photos documenting the torture inflicted on Loreno.
She convinced her husband to shoot her nephew in the head. They burned his body, like Loreno’s, and scattered the ashes in the ocean.
Ronald ‘Ron’ Woodworth, 57, killed in August 2003
Ronald Woodworth, 57, was a local man who boarded with the family around 2001. At first, he was welcomed with open arms and showered with their love
Ronald ‘Ron’ Woodworth, 57, was a local man and US military veteran who boarded with the family around 2001 after he lost his own home.
At first, he was welcomed with open arms and showered with their love.
But things quickly changed and he was also subjected to severe emotional and physical abuse.
Shelly took all of his clothes and called him ‘useless’ when he gave in to her demands that he drink his own urine.
Witnesses said he was ordered to do chores outside wearing only his underwear, and that he was forced to jump off the roof of the two-story home, landing barefoot on the gravel, causing severe injuries.
It was also claimed that Shelly would burn Woodworth’s injured feet with boiling water and pure bleach.
By the time Woodworth had moved in, Sami and Nikki had moved out, leaving just Tori at the home.
Tori described some of the abuse to Olsen, including Woodworth’s feet being ‘treated’ with the bleach: ‘It was like the smell of bleach and decomposing flesh, like it was burning his skin off . . . He smelled like that for a month. Up until the very end.’
Woodworth went missing in 2003 and was said to have died in August of that year. Shelly hid his body in a freezer for four days and her husband later admitted to burying Woodworth’s body on their property after she told him that Woodworth had committed suicide.
An autopsy by the King County medical examiner determined that Woodworth’s death was murder.
Knotek was also caring for another man around the same time by the name of James McClintock. The 81-year-old retired merchant crewman did not live with the family, but had reportedly willed his home to Knotek. He died from a head wound after he reportedly fell in that same home, valued at $140,000.
Knotek has not been charged in connection with McClintock’s death and it’s unknown if she had anything to do with it or if it was an accident.
Shelly’s killing spree ended shortly after when her daughters reunited in Seattle, where Nikki was living, and decided that it was time to go to the police.
‘She needs to be stopped,’ Tori told her sisters.
They called the police and the family property was searched. Woodworth’s body was found, and Dave and Shelly were arrested on August 8.
The daughters have since moved on with their lives. Nikki and Sami live in Seattle, Washington, while Tori has relocated to Colorado, according to the book.
Sami has said she know what she would do if she ever sees her mother again.
‘If she ever turns up on my doorstep,’ Sami said, ‘I can just see myself locking all my doors and barricading myself in the bathroom to call the police.’
Sami, along with Tori, have both said they forgive Dave, who reached out to his daughters for forgiveness. Nikki, however, said the abuse they endured throughout the years was unforgettable and unforgivable.
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